Blooming bulbs bring a touch of spring to cold winters days. Bulbs make a wonderful Christmas gift for anyone who enjoys flowers. The key to giving bulbs as a gift is to plant them far enough ahead of time that they will bloom for Christmas. To do this, you'll need to force the bulbs by simulating the conditions of spring indoors. Amaryllis, crocus, narcissus and tulips are good choices for this method and if treated properly will brighten the holidays with colorful blooms.
Buy prepared bulbs from a nursery or bulb wholesaler. Prepared bulbs have been prechilled and are ready to plant.
Time your planting so the bulbs will bloom around Christmas time. Each variety of bulb requires a different interval between planting and blooming, which should be indicated on the bulb's label. Some general guidelines are plant tulips by Sept. 15, hyacinths by Sept. 24 and amaryllis and daffodils (including paperwhite narcissus) by Oct. 12.
Choose a shallow container wide enough to hold all the bulbs you want to plant, with space between the bulbs and the side of the container. The container should be deep enough to allow an inch or more of space beneath the bulb when all but the top half inch of the bulb is planted.
You can plant paperwhite narcissus in special forcing glasses, which support the bulb above a mixture of water and gravel.
Use bulb fiber or a loose, porous soil. Add an inch or 2 of soil to the container, set the bulb on top of this layer, then add more soil loosely around the bulb. Leave the top half inch of the bulb exposed. Water until the soil is moist but not soggy.
Set the planted bulbs in a cool, dry place such as a basement or garage. They need to be protected from freezing but ideally the temperature should remain around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a warm climate, wrap the pot in a black plastic bag and set it in the refrigerator.
Check the bulbs weekly and add water so the soil doesn't dry out. When new shoots measure about 2 inches high, bring the bulbs indoors to a cool room.
Move the bulbs to a warm, sunny spot when the leaves are nice and green. Water them regularly and keep them away from drafts.